The best pocket radio

Audio & Video Accessories

It is highly recommended to include pocket radios in all disaster preparedness packages, or “bug-out bags.” Information broadcasted during extreme situations can save your life.

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Which pocket radio is best?

Even when you have a smartphone, pocket radios are still handy devices to have. During a power outage, a pocket radio can be used to receive life-saving information, and because they’re battery-powered, their power levels are easy to replenish in difficult situations.

The best pocket AM/FM radio in 2021 is the Sangean FM-Stereo/AM Audio Digital Tuning Personal Receiver. This digitally tuned pocket AM/FM radio has great sound quality and reception, combined with a slim and highly portable design.

Pocket radio band types

Radios are created to convert a type of electromagnetic wave broadcast through the air called radio waves. There are four types of radio waves: amplitude modulation (AM) radio waves, frequency modulation (FM) radio waves, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) radio waves and shortwave radio waves.

Amplitude modulation (AM)

AM radio waves change the amplitude (the size) of the wave to transmit signals. They travel much farther than FM signals but have poorer quality sound. Radio talk shows are usually on AM signals.

AM radio wave reception is standard on all pocket radios in 2021.

Frequency modulation (FM)

FM radio waves change the frequency (the speed) of the wave transmitting signals. They travel shorter distances but transmit higher-quality sound. Music is usually broadcast using FM signals.

FM radio wave reception is standard on all pocket radios in 2021.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

NOAA radio waves are transmitted separately from AM and FM radio waves and are exclusively used to communicate weather reports and emergency broadcasts. Make sure your emergency preparedness bag contains a pocket radio that receives NOAA broadcasts. 

Shortwave

Shortwave radio waves bounce off layers of ions (positively charged atoms) in the atmosphere and can travel thousands of miles, much farther than the 100 mile limit of AM signals. Pocket radios that receive shortwave signals can pick up local broadcasts and even broadcasts from other continents.

Pocket radio features

Controls

Radios used to only have analog controls, but modern pocket radios have digital options. Analog controls can be more precise, while digital controls can sometimes come with auto-seek capabilities for easy tuning.

Display

Not all pocket radios come with backlit displays, but you should absolutely ensure that the pocket radio in your emergency kit has one. Low-light and poor visibility are very common during natural disasters and other extreme situations.

Low-battery indicators are also highly recommended. Running out of power at the wrong time during any kind of broadcast is unfortunate and preventable.

Presets

Digitally tuned pocket radios let you set certain stations to be tuned to at the press of a button, making for quick and easy use.  

Power source

Pocket radios are generally battery powered but there are other options. The other most common versions are solar-powered and USB-charged pocket radios.

Portability

Pocket radios are usually small and lightweight, but some may be too heavy to carry during hiking or other activities. Double-check the weight and size before purchasing.

Bluetooth

Many pocket radios in 2021 can also double as a portable speaker for your phone or computer by including Bluetooth capabilities.

Pocket radio cost

The cheapest, bare-bones type of pocket radio can be found for under $10. Pocket radios in the  $20-$40 range will meet all your needs and be high-quality. Deluxe options will cost over $40.

Pocket radio FAQ

What kinds of batteries do pocket radios use?

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A. Most pocket radios use AA or AAA batteries. The more light your pocket radio creates through backlights and LCD displays, the faster you’ll go through batteries. Keep several spares in your emergency kit or purchase some rechargeable batteries.

What kind of sound quality can I expect with pocket radios?

A. The larger and more expensive the radio, the higher the quality of the sound. 

Do pocket radios have stereo sound or just mono sound?

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A. Low-end pocket radios usually only have mono sound, while high-end pocket radios have stereo sound. Most pocket radios generally offer stereo sound with headphones and mono sound using the built-in speaker.

Which pocket radio should I get?

Best of the best pocket radio

Sangean FM-Stereo/AM Audio Digital Tuning Personal Receiver

Sangean FM-Stereo/AM Audio Digital Tuning Personal Receiver

What you need to know: This model is perfectly portable with great reception and sound quality.

What you’ll love: Included earbuds make listening that much easier.

What you should consider: This pocket AM/FM radio is on the more expensive side.

Where to buy: Amazon

Best bang for your buck pocket radio

Kaito Pocket AM/FM Radio

Kaito Pocket AM/FM Radio

What you need to know: Kaito makes a high-quality pocket AM/FM radio for a low price.

What you’ll love: The built-in speaker’s sound quality tops the charts.

What you should consider: When turned up too loud, the speaker can start to buzz.

Where to buy: Amazon

Honorable mention pocket radio

Vondior AM/FM Battery Operated Portable Pocket Radio

Vondior AM/FM Battery Operated Portable Pocket Radio

What you need to know: This straightforward, no-frills pocket radio gets the job done and is simple to use. 

What you’ll love: An analogue dial makes station hunting easy.

What you should consider: It is unable to stand up on a flat surface.

Where to buy: Amazon

 

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Jordan C. Woika writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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